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Christmas Traditions: The Postbox and Postman

The Post Box

The Post Box

Yesterday we learned about the first Christmas Card so it is fitting that we learn about the post-box and the postman today!

Letterboxes had been known in France from the beginning of the 17th century. In 1653, the first post boxes are believed to have been installed in and around Paris. By 1829, post boxes were in use throughout France. However, the roadside pillar-boxes associated with Great Britain rose to prominence during the Victorian era. 

In the UK, before the introduction of pillar-boxes, it was customary to take outgoing mail to the nearest letter receiving house or post office. Such houses were usually coaching inns or turnpike houses where the Royal Mail coach would stop to pick up and drop off mail and passengers. People took their letters, in person, to the receiver, or postmaster, purchased a stamp (after 1840) and handed over the letter.

Post boxes were first brought to the Channel Islands, at the suggestion of the novelist Anthony Trollope, who had been sent to the islands as a surveyor, by Sir Rowland Hill, Secretary of the Post Office. The problem was the collecting of mail on the islands due to the irregular sailing times of the Royal Mail packet boats, the weather, and the tides. Trollope reported back a recommendation to use a device he had seen in Paris, a “letter-receiving pillar.” It was made of cast iron, octagonal in design, and painted olive green. Trollope suggested that four would be needed for Guernsey and five for Jersey. Vaudin & Son Foundry, in Jersey, first produced them and the first four were placed in David Place, New Street, Cheapside, and St Clement’s Road in St Helier and were first used by the public in 1852. They were instantly popular despite problems with rainwater getting in the boxes!      

The first standard design was made by Richard Redgrave of the Department of Science and Art in 1856 and was immediately taken up for use in London and other major cities. Green was the usual color of the earliest Victorian post boxes.

A decade later the hexagonal, John Penfold Post Box, became the dominant design and from July 1874, there was a gradual adaptation of red as the color that the world would associate with the British pillar-box. Penfold boxes come in three sizes and altogether there are nine different types. The power of the pillar-box as a cultural icon made this particular red, called pillar-box red, particularly useful to the cosmetic industry when describing lipstick and hair color.

Most traditional British pillar boxes produced after 1905 are made of cast iron and are cylindrical. But, alas I did not have one picture of a cylindrical post box in all my pictures!

This summer while scurrying around the country lanes in Sussex looking for a particular garden in the NGS, (Gardens put on display once a year for charity) we came to a cluster of four lanes each going off in a different direction. AND here at the intersection of Nowhere and Nowhere was the Royal Post Box! I had to stop and get a picture!

The Lonely Post Box

The Lonely Post Box

And here is a post box in St Ives, convenient to the teas shoppes!

A Post Box in St Ives, Cornwall

A Post Box in St Ives, Cornwall

And here is another post box in another small village in the UK. Truly a post box!

The English Post Box

The English Post Box

Red is still the default color of British post-boxes, but in 2012 the London Olympics organizing committee celebrated British successes by painting selected boxes gold!

What we now refer to as a “penny-farthing,” those odd looking things with the outsized front wheel, was generally known to the Victorians as the bicycle. The nickname came about around 1891 when the machines were nearly outdated. The penny-farthing takes it’s name from two British coins, one larger than the other just like the two wheels.  In the 1890s the terms “ordinary” or “high wheel” were the preferred names for this type of bicycle and these are the terms used today by enthusiasts.

The Pentacycle Trialled at Horsham, Sussex

The Pentacycle Tested at Horsham, Sussex

The five wheeled bike that the postman used was known as the “Pentacycle.” It was the invention of the architect Edward Burstow in 1882. It was designed for the purpose of carrying mail and this was tested in the county of West Sussex. Although the innovation met with an enthusiastic response from the postmen of Horsham, the idea was not adopted elsewhere. There is a replica of one in the British Postal Museum.

I hope you have enjoyed the post boxes and mailman today! See you tomorrow for more in the Series, Christmas Foods and Traditions!!

Christmas Traditions: The First Christmas Card

First Christmas Card Designed by JC Horsley

First Christmas Card Designed by JC Horsley

The first Christmas Card was created by Sir Henry Cole, in London. Cole was a prominent innovator in the 1800’s. He  managed the construction of Albert Hall, arranged for the Great Exhibition in 1851 and was the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. In his spare time he ran an art shop on Bond Street, specializing in decorative objects for the home.

Sir Henry Cole

Sir Henry Cole

In 1837, British postal rates were high. It was normal for the recipient to pay postage on delivery, charged by the sheet of paper and the distance traveled. In 1840, Cole was credited in revamping the postal system and creating the first self-adhesive postage stamp: the Penny Black. He also announced a competition to design the new stamps. There were some 2,600 entries, but none were considered suitable; instead a rough design was chosen, featuring an easily recognizable profile of Princess Victoria. Cole believed the picture of Victoria would be hard to forge. The Penny Black stamp allowed letters up to 1/2 ounce to be delivered at a flat rate of one penny regardless of distance. The stamp lasted less than a year, because the red cancellation was hard to see on the black design and the red ink was easy to remove, which made it possible to re-use cancelled stamps. In February, 1841 the post office switched to the Penny Red and began using black ink for cancellations instead, which was more effective and harder to remove.

Penny Black Stamp

Penny Black Stamp

During this time people exchanged handwritten holiday greetings, written one by one. Henry Cole decided to design an attractive card so that it was not necessary to compose a Christmas letter to all his friends individually. In 1843, he commissioned John Callcott Horsley to create the first commercial card designed for sale. The design was a wealthy family enjoying a seasonal feast set with a rustic border hung with ivy grapes and leaves and the words, “A Merry Christmas to You.” It caused some controversy with temperance groups, because it depicted a small child drinking wine.  Horsley had previously designed the Horsley envelope, a pre-paid envelope that was the precursor to the postage stamp. Even the early Christmas card manufacturers believed Christmas cards to be a vogue which would soon pass. They operated on a quick turn basis and did not bother to document the cards they produced. However, the Christmas card was destined to become an integral part of the holiday season. By 1880 their manufacture was big business, creating previously unknown opportunities for artists, writers, printers, and engravers. Thanks to these two men we have Christmas cards, envelopes and postage stamps!

During the latter years of the Victorian era many people designed their own cards and became increasingly adventurous in their construction. The “trick card” was the most popular Christmas card of the Victorian era. While infinite in variety, it always featured some element of surprise. While seemingly simple at first glance, the turning of a page, the pulling of a string, or the moving of a lever would reveal the unexpected, showing the card to be more complex than first imagined.  The cards tended not to focus upon religious or wintry scenes. Nature was the inspiration and colorful scenes of spring and summer dominated. Early cards therefore featured colorful birds or butterflies flying amongst stalks of wheat and even insects landing upon ripening fruit; a timely reminder that the harsh winter weather would soon pass. 

More to come in my Christmas Food and Tradition Series!

Christmas Foods and Traditions: Grace Tosier, The Royal Chocolate Maker’s Wife

Grace Tosier

Grace Tosier

Yesterday we learned all about the appointment of Thomas Tosier in 1717, as the Royal Chocolate Maker to King George I. Thomas and his wife, Grace, owned a famous ‘Chocolate House’ on Chocolate Row, in London, and when King George wanted a chocolatier for himself, Thomas was his man. This presented a problem, because now Thomas was a very busy man making chocolate for the King, and lived in his own apartment in the palace. He also had to be available 24/7 for the king. But, he didn’t want to give up his ‘Chocolate House’, that was so popular with the rich and the famous.  The only thing to do was let Grace take over! Grace knew exactly what to do and was determined that her husband’s fame would benefit her also. From that time on she always refers to herself as Grace Tosier, wife of the King’s Chocolate Maker. She turns out to be an excellent business woman, presenting evenings in her ‘Chocolate House’, as a “Royal Experience” to coincide with what is going on in the King’s Court. She installs a dance floor and presents balls in accordance with the Court Calendar. She celebrates the king’s birthday and other occasions. Grace is offering a court experience with those people who cannot be at court! She becomes very popular! Even after Thomas died and Grace remarried she always referred to herself as Grace Tosier. In the newspaper she was described as always wearing a very large, brimmed hat, and having flowers in her bosom. In 1729, Bartholomew Dandridge, a fashionable portrait painter, painted her portrait as one in a series of the aristocrats, celebrities, and characters of London. I think Grace may have had the best of both world’s; she knew the ins and out of the court without having to give up her home, business, friends and freedom to serve.

In  February 2014, the Chocolate Kitchen and the Chocolate Room, special royal chocolate-making rooms, opened up again at Hampton Court Palace. Research identified the exact location of the kitchens, which had been used as a storeroom in the ‘Grace and Favor’ period. The royal family may have left Hampton Court in 1737, but the palace and it’s apartments soon found another purpose. After George III, who reigned from 1760-1820, decided not to live at Hampton Court Palace, there was debate as to the future of the palace’s thousands of rooms. From the 1760s onwards, the palace was divided up for ‘grace-and-favor’ residents, who were granted rent-free accommodation, because they had given great service to the Crown or country. They lived, often with their own small households of servants above, underneath and around the state apartments. The whole palace was divided up into a labyrinth of apartments of varying size and quality. The average size was twelve to fourteen rooms, many of them vast in scale. However, some apartments had no more than four rooms, while the largest had nearly forty. Despite the grand location, the apartments were by no means luxurious. Yet, competition for them was fierce and many applicants waited years in the hope of obtaining an apartment. Over the next two hundred years a wide variety of people became Hampton Court residents. In 1838, the young Queen Victoria, who reigned 1837-1901, ordered that Hampton Court Palace ‘should be thrown open to all her subjects without restriction.’

As of 2014, the new display in the kitchen explores how the chocolate was made for the king and features many of the pieces that made up the chocolate serving service of chocolate pots, glassware, and linens. The Chocolate Kitchen’s 18th century fixtures and fittings all survive – you can see a Georgian fireplace and smoke jack within the chimney, a pair of charcoal braziers, a folding table, cupboard and shelves. Thomas Tosier is impersonated in the Royal Chocolate Kitchen still chocolating away…….Grace Tosier’s picture hangs over the fireplace.

See you tomorrow for more Christmas Foods and Traditions!

Christmas Foods and Traditions: Chocolate

Tosier making the Royal Chocolate

Thomas Tosier Making the Royal Chocolate at the Hampton Court Place

The Spanish first brought the cocoa bean to Europe from Central America. Cocoa pods fell from the cocoa tree or were cut off. The cocoa pods were easy to harvest because they grew on the trunk of the tree or on large branches near the ground. The harvested pods were split open and the pulp and cocoa seeds were removed and then placed in heaps to ferment. The heaps were rotated for several days and after the fermented pulp trickled away, the cocoa seeds were collected. These seeds were dried and bagged and sent to all parts of the world by ship.

Cocoa Pods

Cocoa Pods

The Chocolate Kitchen and Chocolate Room were built at Hampton Court Palace for William and Mary around 1689, but it was mainly used by the Georgian kings. The Chocolate Kitchen was a spicery to provide the spices for cooking and to make confectionaries of sweet treats.  The Chocolate Room provided the beautiful serving equipment used to present the chocolate to the king. China, delftware, and chocolate pots with molinet whisks, would have been placed on delicate glass serving dishes to serve chocolate to the King. The molinet is a wooden, ridged whisk with a long handle that is unique to chocolate making. It is inserted into a chocolate pot and pushed through the top lid. A final whisk is given before the chocolate is served. Chocolate up until the 19th century was served mostly as a luke-warm drink for breakfast. The Chocolate Rooms were situated near the back stairs to the king’s apartments and this is where we find Thomas Tosier.

Thomas Tosier was the personal chocolate maker of George I (and George II) from 1717. This was a prestigious position among the royal staff, but it was not a new position. Even before the construction of the Chocolate Kitchen at Hampton Court Palace, there had been royal chocolate makers.

Chocolate was high-status, luxurious and only for the elite, and so it is no surprise that those who worked with chocolate were highly-respected individuals. Prior to working for the King, Tosier had already established ‘The Chocolate House’, on Chocolate Row (now West Grove) in Greenwich, London, which was very popular with fashionable London society and one of the first places in London to serve chocolate. This set them apart from the “coffee house,” which had a much more popular following, because more people could afford to drink coffee. Tosier, already was well known and working in his praised establishment so the promotion to “Chocolate Maker to the King” established him further. It also made his wife, Grace, a celebrity in her own right. (we’ll learn more about Grace Tosier tomorrow)

So what did Tosier’s employment as the King’s Chocolate Maker mean?

Well, for one thing, it didn’t mean being part of the kitchen staff. Instead the Royal Chocolate Maker was highly respected as part of the ceremonial or personal staff of the monarch. Tosier would not have done the hard work of roasting and grinding. He would have had servants for that. Tosier would have done the delicate work of flavoring the chocolate and serving it with a final flourish. He was in charge of handling expensive and exotic ingredients and he was one of the few who had privilege and permission to enter the king’s bedchamber. Tosier was responsible for making and taking a cup of chocolate to George I in his bed chamber every morning. One of the perks of his employment was his own bedroom……. a luxury and an honor for a servant at Court.

So how was the chocolate made from the beans you ask? 

First the beans were roasted in a large metal container in front of the fire and turned by the spit boy. The roasted beans are covered in a brittle ‘shell’ which were painstakingly removed by the kitchen boy, splitting the shells and revealing the internal ‘nib’.

These nibs must be ground and placed on a ‘Metate’ – a large stone. This stone is heated from below with charcoal and the nibs are crushed with a stone, or iron roller.

Metate

Metate

Both the warmth and the friction of the roller and stone turn the nibs to a liquid paste. The more this is rolled, the better tasting the chocolate. The poor kitchen boy would have spent many hours rolling the nibs!

The liquid paste is taken from the stone and set, sometimes on waxed papers in discs, or often in little tin moulds to make a ‘brick’, ‘cake’ or ‘bar’. These blocks of chocolate are known as ‘chocolate cakes’. Cake in this case means piece, as in a cake of soap. This is a lot of work to make a cake of chocolate!

The processed ‘chocolate cake’ is put into a pot or pan and heated with a liquid – water, milk or even wine. Then the chocolate maker adds sugar and spices such as vanilla or a chilli pepper before serving with a flourish to the king.

It was not just the chocolate makers who benefited from this relationship. For a monarch, like George I, it was a status symbol to be able to afford your own personal chocolate maker. Just as sugar had been a symbol of status in the court of Elizabeth I, so too was chocolate, now in the courts of the European monarchs. This was a sign of kingship and power, in a period which lavish opulence was becoming more and more part of royal showmanship. George I insisted on keeping a chocolate chef on his staff. Tosier’s employment was not only a statement to George’s new countrymen in Britain, but was also a declaration of his position as King to the wider, European aristocrats. George I wished to be seen as modern and powerful monarch, who could compete with the rest of Europe. Tosier and his chocolate work were key in making this statement.

See you tomorrow in the ‘Chocolate House’ with Grace Tosier!

 

  

Christmas Foods and Traditions: The Trencher in Elizabethan Times

Marchpane or Marzipan

Marchpane or Marzipan

The 16th century was a fast-paced and fascinating time for the whole of Europe.

Improvements in design of ships meant they could travel further and faster, resulting in the circumnavigation of the world. Queen Elizabeth granted Sir Walter Raleigh a Royal Charter, which authorized him to explore and colonize any “remote, heathen and barbarous countries, not actually possessed by any Christian prince, or inhabited by Christian people, in exchange for a portion of the wealth found there.”  This shifted the balance of power from the East and allowed the English to grow and source foods for themselves in their colonies.

Perhaps the item that gained popularity most rapidly was sugar. Sugar had been used in Henry VIII’s  kitchens, but the expansion of the world allowed this precious ingredient to be more readily accessible.

Sugar was a high-status ingredient; it was more expensive than honey (which had long been used as a natural sweetener) because of the requirement for it to be imported. Sugar grows as a cane, but would be imported in a ‘loaf’ form. The highest grade of these sugars were the fine, white sugars which could easily be melted into a liquid and came from Madeira; next came Barbary or Canary sugar; and finally a coarser, brown sugar which required less rendering down but was, as a result, more difficult to work with. However, even this coarse sugar was expensive; this was not an ingredient which all in Elizabethan England would have had access to, but Elizabeth did and it became her favorite food.

Last time we learned about the Tudor trencher. How did that change in Elizabethan times?

The word trencher comes from the French ‘tranche’, meaning slice. In the late Middle Ages, a slice of bread acted as a plate, however by the 16th century this was replaced by painted wood or metal alternatives.

We also learned about the different levels of the seating plan, when one was allowed to eat at Court. The food was better, more plentiful and beautifully presented when you were chosen to sit and eat in a more prestigious hall. Queen Elizabeth added one more level of eating to the Court, The Banquet. This is not the banquet style of eating as we know today where the food is placed around the room on various tables and you move about picking what you choose to eat. This Banqueting consisted of a selection of some of the favored quests, who would take another meal in another room, or sometimes outdoors in a miniature pavilion. Only the guests of the highest status were invited.

During the banquet, a trencher would be placed in front of each guest. A delicacy would be presented on the unpainted side, which might include finely made sweet-meats, exotic spices, sugar confectionery, ornate marchpane sculptures or sweet gingerbread. These expensive ingredients and delicacies made a clear statement of wealth, status and power, and the trencher they were served on had to reflect this. Once the food was consumed the diner would turn the trencher over to find painted and gilded images and texts; biblical texts, moral texts or humorous sayings. These could be read aloud and discussed amongst the guests. They were intended to provoke discussion, and encourage story-telling, much like a Christmas cracker or fortune cookie today.

Sugared Lemons

Sugared Lemons

At court sugar was used in elaborate dishes. Sweets made from sugar paste (made from a mix of egg, sugar and gelatin) were made. A popular dish was ‘Leech,’ made of milk, sugar and rosewater and then cut into single bites. The popular treats were marchpane and gingerbread. Marchpane was made from almond and sugar paste and could be moulded into various shapes and elaborately decorated. Gingerbread required ginger, an exotic ingredient, along with a good dose of sugar. Fruit pies were made and sweetened with sugar and thickened with almond milk. Cheesecakes, custards and puddings were made. Sweets were flavored with nutmeg, mace, cloves, anise, coriander, rose water, almond or saffron. All this was available because England owned the sea!

Eating all this refined sugar, rather than sweetening with honey or fruit, had a big impact on the Queen and her court, who were eating lavish sugar desserts and cleaning their teeth with sugar, by rubbing their teeth with sugar paste, as sugar was also seen as having medicinal properties.

Queen Elizabeth had such rotted, black teeth that she had to have some of her teeth removed. She was so fearful of pain that the Bishop of London volunteered to have one of his teeth pulled, as an example!

We have no such thing as Christmas crackers in the US, so for a Christmas party and using the trencher idea, why not try this? When neighbors  or relatives come into the house, they could pick a slip of paper out of a hat with questions such as “What was your favorite Christmas food when you were a child?” “When did your family open gifts?” “Did you ever visit Santa at a department store?” “What is your favorite Christmas song or carol?” “Do you prefer to stay home or travel to visit friends/family at Christmas?” “What was the most memorable gift you received?” “Did your family make Christmas cookies? If so, what kind were your favorites?” And on and on! Ask that they not unfold the paper until dessert! Then, each person could take a turn to read the question and answer it. The conversations would go on and on! What fun for Christmas and a way to continue on with a very old tradition! Enjoy!

The Elizabethan Christmas and the Tale of Oranges

The Elizabethan Christmas

The Elizabethan Christmas

To continue with my Christmas Foods And Traditions Series we will look today at the Elizabethan period of England.

As a queen, Elizabeth had access to some of the most luxurious foods that were on offer now from many parts of the world. Her food reflected the wealth and power of England and was an important status symbol.

Oranges were originally brought from China, but by the 16th century they were grown in Spain and southern France. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, sweet oranges were given frequently as Christmas gifts because they were expensive, delicious and sure to note how wealthy the giver was.

Now to tell the Great Citrus Fruit Escape……………

Father John Gerard, a Jesuit priest, continued to practice Catholicism and move freely among the gentry in Elizabethan Protestant times, and that landed him eventually in the Tower of London.

A  well-to-do prisoner in the Tower was allowed to furnish their cell to their tastes and bring in their own food to make life there more tolerable. Father Gerard was gifted some oranges and he would share them with the guard and warden to bribe them. He persuaded the warden to allow him to send crosses made from the left-over orange peel to his friends.

Father Gerard's Orange Peel Crosses

Father Gerard’s Orange Peel Crosses

Along with the crosses he sent a prayer written in charcoal, which the warden would read first.

Father Gerard Prayer Written in Charcoal

Father Gerard Prayer Written in Charcoal

However, when the warden was not looking, Gerard used the orange juice that he had saved, to write a second message between the lines of the prayer. Once the orange juice was dried it became invisible, only to be seen when re-heated by lamplight fire. Father Gerard wrapped all the orange peel crosses in the paper prayer-messages and sent them with the guard to be delivered.

The Orange Juice Message Written Between the Lines

The Orange Juice Message Written Between the Lines

Also during this time, Father Gerard met fellow Catholic prisoner, John Arden, who was being kept in another part of the prison, near the garden and the moat.

While in the Tower Father Gerard was tortured, often being suspended for days by his wrists in the hope he would confess to treason and could be put to death. His fingers were barely able to move after this.

Gerard and Arden were given permission to spend some time in each other’s company. The coded messages had been deciphered by Father Gerard’s supporters and a desperate escape plan was put in place.  On the appointed evening, the men met in Arden’s cell and loosened the stone around the bolt of the door that lead to the roof. They reached the roof at midnight, in time to see a rowing boat containing three men approach the walls. As they were about to make contact, a man came from a house below and assuming the men were fishing, began to engage them in conversation.

Gerard waited patiently for the man to leave, but by the time he departed it was too late for an escape that night.

Thinking that the escape was doomed, Gerard was surprised to hear next day that the rescuers were going to try again. Waiting until they had been locked in the Tower together, Gerard and Arden again climbed onto the roof. Throwing down a weighted cord they raised up a rope that had been tied to it by the rescuers below. The plan had been to slide down the rope, but the angle it made meant that instead the escapers had to pull themselves hand over hand along its length. It is worth remembering that Gerard had recently been tortured by being suspended in manacles, which made a hazardous descent even more difficult.

After his companion managed to climb down, Gerard realized that the rope which had been straight was now sagging – making the climb even more difficult. Holding the rope between his legs, Gerard pulled himself out from the high roof. Half way across he became exhausted and at one point was left hanging in the darkness, strength failing. In the end Gerard and Arden managed to escape, all in thanks to his oranges!  Can you imagine? Is this where the saying “read between the lines“ comes from? I should think so!

More to come in the Christmas Foods And Traditions Series! Enjoy!

 

A Stroll Through Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

 

The Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

The Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

Upon arrival the Brookfield House B&B looked like this!

Located on a quiet side street it is still close enough to walk to the shops and restaurants. The Brookfield B&B was the perfect spot to stay in so let’s look at some of those photos first! We like staying in small B&B’s when we travel and now when my husband is traveling for work he tends to look for B&B’s as well. Brookfield is a charming re-stored Victorian property with six rooms and a small staff offering attentive service. My husband started the day at 0600, but the owner, Lisa, was up every morning to make sure he got his full English breakfast!

The Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

The Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

The Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

The Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

Looking out…….

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

The Entryway looked like this………..

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

The Dining Area looked like this…….

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

And his room looked like this…….

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

Then a stroll around town looked like this……..

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The weather is becoming blustery!

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

And rainy……..

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

And the temperature is dropping…….

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Royal Hall, Harrogate, UK

Royal Hall, Harrogate, UK

Royal Baths, Harrogate, UK

Royal Baths, Harrogate, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Look closely at the statues on this building!

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

I wonder who has the job of placing scarves and hats on the statues? The weather is taking a turn for the worse!

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

And everyone should visit Bettys! That’s all anyone talked about! Hubby needed something hot about now!

Betty's Tearoom and Chocolates, Harrogate, UK

Betty’s Tearoom and Chocolates, Harrogate, U

But alas, it was the last week and the weather was appropriate!

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

Brookfield B&B, Harrogate, UK

And at the airport in Leeds……..Not Going Anywhere Too Soon!

Not Going Anywhere Any Too Soon!

Not Going Anywhere Any Too Soon!

I hope you enjoyed my hubby’s first attempt to get pictures for me when visiting a great city in the UK. I am sad that I missed out on it because it looks just like the kind of place I love to visit!

For information about the Brookfield B&B in Harrogate look here! I think you will find it as charming as my hubby did! ‘Till next time!

 

 

Agatha Christie’s Biggest Mystery

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

In December 1926, Agatha Christie was a thirty-six year old, established crime writer, when she mysteriously disappeared. Early on the morning of December 3rd, Colonel Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps, had asked Agatha for a divorce because he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele. He then packed up and went to spend the weekend with his mistress. Later that evening, Agatha left the house leaving two notes; one for her brother-in-law saying she was going to Yorkshire and one for the town constable saying she feared for her life. Her crashed car was found nearby, hanging over the edge of a chalk pit, with her fur coat,  suitcases and identity papers thrown about the car and Agatha nowhere to be found.  A massive manhunt began which included the dredging of a large pond and thousands of police and locals joining to scour the countryside. The manhunt included the first use of airplanes to search for missing people. Archie Christie seemed unconcerned when summoned, yes, he had to be summoned to the crash site, and simply stated his wife was a mysterious and calculating woman, who probably made the whole thing up to promote her latest book! Astonished, the constable placed Archie at the top of the suspect list and had his phone tapped, where his affair and want of a divorce was soon discovered.

As the days went on, the search spread out to all parts of Great Britain. Fellow mystery writers got involved: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took one of Agatha’s gloves to a noted psychic and Dorothy L. Sayers visited Agatha’s house and the place where the car was found.

It wasn’t until December 14th that the search ended. As it turned out, Agatha had walked to the train station, after crashing her car, and took a train to London. In London she went shopping for  clothes and a new coat and then took the train to Harrogate, which she had seen on an advertisement at the train station.

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

She checked into The Old Swan Hotel and Spa on the 4th of December under a false name (using, ironically, the surname of Archie’s mistress) Harrogate was the height of elegance in the 1920s and filled with fashionable people looking for fun and excitement. Agatha Christie did nothing to arouse suspicions as she joined in dining, playing billiards, going for spa treatments and attending the balls and dances at the Palm Court at the Swan Hotel.

She even placed an advertisement in the newspaper offering where Teresa Neele was staying.

She was eventually recognized by one of the hotel’s banjo players, Bob Tappin, who alerted the police. They tipped off her husband, Colonel Christie, who came to collect Agatha immediately. Agatha seemed confused and mis-identified Archie as her brother.

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Agatha was brought home and was quickly and completely hidden from reporters.

Because nobody was providing any answers, various scenarios would later be given by the newspapers as theories as to what had happened: temporary amnesia, a nervous breakdown, a plot of revenge to embarrass and humiliate her husband, or a publicity stunt to increase sales of her books. Nobody knew for certain what had transpired. And nobody knows to this day. Agatha never, ever mentioned the episode again. Her divorce was finalized two years later.

And in the end the police charged Agatha Christie for the pay of all the police, and the use of the airplanes during their search for her.

So as noted in my previous post, I was not happy about missing the trip to Harrogate and exploring the Swan Hotel, which was a priority for me. But, as it turned out, my hubby took the time to go to the Hotel and take photos for me and while there he discovered that the Hotel was offering Agatha Christie Mystery Dinners during the month of November, in honor of the 90th anniversary of Agatha’s disappearance. It was a themed mystery taking place in Egypt among the archeologists. Everyone was to dress the part. My husband promptly signed himself up along with a business associate, another man, to attend the mystery dinner. When he told me about it I thought it would be a lot of fun and noted most people would dress the part. On the night of the event, many were indeed dressed in sheik’s robes, archeological dig clothing, or dresses of the roaring twenties, except for said two men. There was even a mix up in their names, since the hotel didn’t think two men would be attending the event together and it must have been a mistake in names, so changed one of the place tag names from Mr O——-, to just Olivia. The men had a good laugh and proceeded with the mystery.  During the dinner, several actors staged sketches and then went around to the ten various tables offering clues and talking to the guests. By the end of the evening the guests at each table were  to collectively name the killer. Table Ten did not discover the correct killer, but had a great time with their table mates, four women from Spain, four women from London, and two men from the US, in trying to figure the mystery out.

The Actors at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

The Actors at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

The Actors at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

The Actors at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

It was soon discovered that one of the finely dressed women at this table was actually a 6 foot-five inch, well built man, named Bill! (the guest with the dangling earrings) Great costume Bill!

Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

Actors and Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

Actors and Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

The Big Fight Skit during the Agatha Christie Murder Mystery Dinner

The Big Fight Skit during the Agatha Christie Murder Mystery Dinner

Another Death to Deal With!

Another Death to Deal With!

Table Ten

Table Ten

Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

And to top off the evening….. The Swan dessert!

 Actors and Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

A great time was had by all and one thing is for sure. Agatha Christie is still the greatest mystery writer of all time, even her own!

Tomorrow will be the last day in Harrogate. Won’t you join me to find out all about it? See you then!

 

Thursday Doors: Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

 

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

A few weeks ago I was supposed to be in……..

Harrogate, a spa town in North Yorkshire, England. The town became known as ‘The English Spa’ in the Georgian era, after its waters were discovered in the 16th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries its ‘chalybeate’ waters (containing iron) were a popular health treatment, and the influx of wealthy, but sickly visitors, contributed significantly to the wealth of the town. I probably should have gone; the spa treatments would have done me good. But, because I was not feeling up to it, my husband who had business there, was encouraged to take a doorscursion for me. Here are the results of his efforts! Pretty good I’d say! Especially, since he had to go after work hours, in the dark, and in rain or snow every evening! How nice to enjoy Harrogate today in the snow as he did!! What a lovely place! First we’ll look at the blue doors.

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

In the glass pane you can see him taking the photo! Great shot dear!

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Do you see all the wrought iron and heavy metal drainpipes in most of these photos? They are artwork in themselves!

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Some things are just black and white in life!

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

And sometimes Aqua!

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

I want to think these are “His and Her” letter boxes! Ha Ha!

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

I’d definitely say black doors were the most popular!

Isn’t this the cutest menswear shop store front?

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

And the other reason I hated to miss this trip, was I wanted to go to the Swan Hotel! What’s at the Swan Hotel you ask? We’ll discover that tomorrow!  See you there!

This is just one of many photos in the Thursday Door Collection featured by Norm2.0!   Won’t you join in or take a peak at all the doors?

 

What’s New With You? I’m Under the Weather, Just in Time for Thanksgiving

 

Coastal Greece

Coastal Greece

I’m participating in a new challenge on Wednesdays called What’s New With You from Lenore over at Explore Newness.

For this challenge we are to write a post about something NEW you learned, or something you tried, did, experienced etc., and also include something NEW you learned about from another site you follow.

Since I can hardly hold my head up; I have been so sick, this will be brief and it is also what is new with me. Not much. But, I did promise I would participate this week so here I am. Next week should be much better, I promise.

The blog that I follow and enjoy so much is Georgie Moon’s, Third Time Lucky. She lives on a boat in Greece half the year and the other half she lives in the UK. I like her wit and following her in her travels and learning about different places and how things ain’t always so easy.

She has been is a blogging slump so she is participating in a 31 Day Blogging Challenge where you answer questions. This was one posted a few days ago and you can see why I like the exploits of Georgie. I think we tend to feel like we are in a slump from time to time, it’s natural. I sometimes wonder how could anyone be interested in this blog post, but me. Some of the blog posts I struggled to write and thought sounded so boring, or uninteresting, or whatever, turned out to be some of my most followed posts! So you never know. Just keep plugging away, write what you want to write about.

I think this is going to be a fun challenge, so if you would also like to participate, check out the Challenge! See You next week!

PS I picked this picture because it is where I’d rather be, than sitting here in my bathrobe with my head throbbing. Just sayin’. I’m thinking of you Georgie!

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